Thursday, 12 January 2012

DRUG SMUGGLING PILOT: Malysian airline pilots - underpaid, underqualified ... untrustworthy?



We have written about AirAsia's offhand attitude toward safety in the past, including where its management make crass statements regarding your welfare. We have also alerted readers to pilots radically substandard pay and harsh working conditions that are completely out of step with universally accepted standards. Indeed, we likened its pilots to 'indentured prostitutes'.  See the articles HERE & HERE

Only today, an on-duty Malaysian pilot has been arrested in Australia for importing heroin and methamphetamine. This wasn't a small baggie, Australian police found an astonishing five kilograms (11 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine. 





The 30-year-old, working for Malaysian Airlines [MAS] - an airline with several AirAsia Management on its Board, including AirAsia's CEO, Tony Fernandes - was arrested when customs officers searched his suitcase when he arrived at Sydney airport on a flight from KL.


Guess we know what the Malaysian pilot's top priority was - and it definitely was not flight safety.


Considering the mandatory death penalty the unnamed pilot would face in Malaysia, what would motivate a qualified professional to take such a huge risk? 

Is he a chronic gambler with a serious addiction? Does he suffer other addictions, as is often the case with those with gambling issues - depression, alcoholism, criminality? Indeed, is he supporting his own drug habit - methamphetamine being commonly used by long haul truck drivers and those that need to stay awake beyond the limits of the human body? [... and leading to countless disastrous accidents]. Sound familiar? Our readers will surely not have forgotten the offhand remarks of AirAsia's conniving Connor McCarthy: 


 


"Connor McCarthy says AirAsia's operating secrets aren't so secret: a lot of small cuts on the cost side and a lot of incremental increases on the revenue side. A no-frills airline requires fewer staffers -- Singapore Airlines flies nearly the same number of passengers but has four times as many employees -- and Southeast Asia's labor costs are low. Regulations are more lax too; a Ryanair pilot can only fly 900 hours a year under European Union law, but AirAsia's crew can log 1,000."


Jeff Chu - Washington Post/Portfolio.com: Business Travel, Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Is this lax attitude toward safety/remuneration  - not to mention maintenance - leading to airlines such as AirAsia and MAS becoming a very real risk to fly? 

The last time we received any comment from AirAsia answering our charges on this website, indeed the only time we received any comment from AirAsia, was from a representative named 'Mero' from "AirAsia Blog" - find that link HERE - you will see the staffer contended, "Sure, some pilots manage to do some crazy stuff on our flights, but they get their just punishments just as any other offender would when they do crazy stuff that affects others." Wow! We appreciate honesty, but we're probably not alone in being a little bit afraid by that admission, wouldn't you agree?  In fact, it's a little bit scary to say such a thing. Perhaps he was high??? 

Malaysia's Sunday Times reported some time ago: "The rising number of budget airlines in the region is causing a boom ... which is turning into a conveyor belt churning out pilots for the low-cost carriers". 

When the pilot under arrest in Australia graduated from the Malaysian Flying Academy [MFA] in 2001, the course fee was RM150,000 [S$64,500]. Let's not forget that this is in many respects a third world country, or an emerging economy if we are being generous.

AirAsia's McCarthy leaves no doubt as to Malaysia's lax regulations, and how AirAsia and presumably its sister, Malaysian Airlines, are only too happy to exploit them. 

Is this why the Malaysian pilot was motivated to smuggle drugs? Was he simply chasing his tail trying to clear his debts? Maybe the following passage points to the reason he - and those like him - feel compelled to risk their life - and arguably those of their passengers:



The AirAsia Training Programme
 

Commercial Pilot Licence with a ‘Frozen’ ATPL

ONLY the training cost is sponsored by AirAsia. All other expenses such as accommodation and food plus all other miscellaneous expenditure will be borne by the cadets. All cadet pilots will repay the cost of training through monthly deductions over a period of fifteen (15) years commencing from the time they are employed by AirAsia and commence their line training as Second Officers. In addition to this the cadets will have to sign a training bond for the type-rating course on the Boeing 737 or the Airbus A320. In the event the cadet pilot is unsuccessful at any stage of the training the cadet is obliged to repay AirAsia all the training cost that had been expended up to the stage of termination plus any administrative costs. With the very fast pace of expansion of AirAsia there is abundant opportunity for all ambitious candidates who are willing to work hard. 




Let alone the stress of working hours that most international pilots would refuse, consider the undue financial pressure that an AirAsia graduate pilot is under to repay his training. Yes, they have to repay every cent - hence being indentured prostitutes.


It would take a pilot his or her lifetime to pay back a student loan - particularly on the reduced wages of the cut-price carriers such as AirAsia. Wouldn't you also harbor a degree of resentment toward an employer/teacher that boasts such a draconian HRM policy as this, treating me like I was in a juvenile facility? It stands to reason that these people who have our lives in their hands are simply in a holding pattern and waiting to land a decent salary with one of the major airlines, that will afford them more respect. 

Now, we don't want to cast dispersions on the already fraught cut-price pilots, however, it seems that the public have the right to know that they are in all probability going to get a rookie who is rather B-Team vis a vis experience. And today's drug bust simply cements the fact that lax regulations and emerging countries rife with corruption are not providing us with the caliber of professional our families deserve. 


AirAsia CEO, Tony Fernandes, has contrived to become the single biggest shareholder of former arch rival Malaysia Airlines - and all with the blessings of the Malaysian Government. Read the article HERE if you want to attempt to grasp why the Malaysian aviation industry has fallen into such sad disrepute.




Tony Fernandes: ""I know Malaysians very well," said Fernandes, a native of Malaysia. "If you put a fare low enough, they'll risk their lives," he said, as the crowd laughed."
 

Tony Fernandes - World Low Cost Airline Convention, thestar.com, 2009

    


Many have already pointed to dire reductions in MAS standards since the AirAsia merger. When does one decide that a cheap flight isn't worth risking their life over? We'll have to leave that question to you. Think about this next time you are considering your AirAsia online booking. Fly AirAsia? Not Me.